Over a thousand young minds converged at the SM Mall of Asia Music Hall on August 11, 2023, during the first quarter of the most anticipated annual call to action for youth to solve global problems—the Global Youth Summit (GYS).
Now in its 11th year, GYS 2023 featured a four-part extraordinary journey of inspiration and empowerment organized through collaboration between the main benefactors: Global Peace Foundation (GPF), a leading voice in global peacebuilding committed to a world where all people can live in peace and harmony; and SM Cares, the corporate social responsibility arm of SM Supermalls committed to making SM malls more inclusive and sustainable. The event is supported by Nestlé, Bless Microfinance Corporation, Our Home, DepEd, Philippine Society of NSTP Educators and Implementers, Inc., National University, and SM Mall of Asia.
The primary themes of the event were collaboratively established by actively asking the participants themselves about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) they wanted to address. This approach ensured the event’s relevance to participants’ needs and the feasibility of generated solutions. The organizers presented a list of potential primary themes to the participants and asked them to vote on their top choices. By actively involving the participants in setting the agenda for solutions, the GYS committee organizers ensured the event’s true significance and impact on the attending young people.
Among the chosen agendas were: (1) SDG 3: Addressing Health Disparities—Achieving Inclusive and Accessible Healthcare in the Philippines; (2) SDG 4: Community Participation in Education—Creating a Supportive and Inclusive Learning Environment for Effective Collaboration and Engagement; (3) SDG 8: Youth Employment and Empowerment—Unlocking Opportunities for Economic Growth in the Philippines; (4) SDG 13: Sustainable Urbanization—Creating Climate-Resilient Cities in the Philippines; (5) SDG 16: Creating a Shared Vision—Mobilizing the Masses for Positive Change.
In addition to the collaboratively established primary themes, the organizers of GYS 2023 ensured the event’s true significance and impact by inviting a set of qualified speakers to share insights and experiences on the chosen agendas. This motivated and inspired student leaders of varying backgrounds, allowing them to learn from and be inspired by experts in respective fields.
To address health disparities, the organizers invited UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador for Asia and the Pacific, Pia Wurtzbach-Jauncey, to speak at the event. Pia Wurtzbach-Jauncey is a highly respected expert in the field of HIV/AIDS due to her awareness project—the PIA project. Her insights were invaluable to student leaders interested in making a difference in the healthcare system and providing HIV counseling, testing, treatment, and life-coaching to those who tested positive for HIV in the Philippines.
Similarly, Rafael Dionisio, an environmental and sustainability champion, discussed Sustainable Urbanization: Creating Climate-Resilient Cities in the Philippines. As a leading expert on sustainable development, he shared insights on building cities resilient to climate change, providing a better quality of life for all. He emphasized knowledge, stating, “If you don’t understand it, you don’t take care of it,” motivating action to protect ourselves and the environment. Just like his campaign MAD, we can Make A Difference together.
Carlo Sampan, Head of MILO® Philippines, was the third person to step onto the stage, inspiring and motivating the audience with his presence and valuable insights on Building Champions in Life. A former professional athlete now dedicated to helping young people achieve their dreams, he emphasized how education is integral to success.
Special videos from EJ Obiena, World No. 2 Pole Vault MILO® Champion; Jamie Lim, a two-time gold medalist at the SEA Games; and Japoy Lizardo, SEA Games Gold Medalist were shared, each sharing their experiences of becoming champions in various aspects of life. Every special video embodied the same theme: learning necessary values in life during challenging moments.
Later in the day, George Royeca, CEO of Angkas, a motorcycle ride-hailing company in the Philippines, left an impression on the audience with his advocacy for inclusive mobility and sustainable transport. He shared Angkas’ path to success, emphasizing that embracing discomfort and the road with the most resistance leads to success. Despite wanting to quit at times, the CEO’s words encouraged persistence.
The importance of community participation in education was discussed by Inggil Ra, the Regional President of the Global Peace Foundation Asia Pacific. Inggil Ra’s advocacy for community-based education inspired student leaders to consider creating more inclusive and supportive learning environments in their communities. A historical appreciation implied that uniting the world through young people remains possible, with KPop serving as neoclassical proof.
Lastly, Eunkyu ‘Nick’ Chun gracefully took the stage, the Pacific Asia Travel Association’s Youth Ambassador, passionate about using his voice to make a difference. An advocate for youth empowerment and economic development, he highlighted youth as responsible for becoming agents of change, learning to overcome trials and collaborate because “we’re all in this together.”
The summit powerfully reminded participants of young people’s potential to make a difference. Speakers inspired participants to use their voices and talents to create a better future for themselves and their country. Participants agreed that while the SDGs are ambitious, they are achievable with the help of young people.
The summit’s success left participants with a cliffhanger: Are we committed to working together to create a more sustainable, equitable, and resilient world as young future leaders?
The answer to this question lies with young people themselves. One thing is certain: the Global Youth Summit 2023 has shown that young people are ready to take action and make a difference, to commit to longevity, as they are the stars creating a brighter future.
See you on August 19 at SM Cagayan De Oro Downtown Premiere, August 26 at SM City Iloilo and September 2 at SM City Baguio! ✨